Book Reviews

Richard Flanagan

Alfred A Knopf



He was not unaware of his critics. Mostly he found himself in agreement with them. His fame seemed to him a failure of perception on the part of others. He had avoided what he regarded as some obvious errors of life, such as politics and golf…He understood that he shared certain features, habits and history with the war hero. But he was not him. He’d just had more success at living than at dying….

    from  The Narrow Road to the Deep North


Elizabeth Gilbert

Riverhead Books



If you choose to enter into a contract of creative suffering, you should try to identify yourself as much as possible with the stereotype of the Tormented Artist. You will find no shortage of role models. To honor their example, follow these fundamental rules: Drink as much as you possibly can; sabotage all your relationships…jealously compete against your peers; begrudge anybody else's victories; proclaim yourself cursed (not blessed) by your talents; attach your sense of self-worth to external rewards; be arrogant when you are successful and self-pitying when you fail; honor darkness above light; die young; blame creativity for having killed you.

from  Big Magic


Stacy Schiff

Little, Brown and Company


To cast aspersions on a bewitched girl, to visit one’s imprisoned spouse too regularly, was to risk accusation. Questioning the validity of witchcraft, the legitimacy of the evidence, or the wisdom of the court bordered on the heretical; the more you resisted, the deeper you dug yourself in. Imputations proved impossible to outrun. The word of two ministers could not save an accused parishioner. Neither age, fortune, gender, nor church membership offered immunity. Prominent men stood accused alongside homeless five-year-old girls. Many braced for the knock at the door.

                  from  The Witches, Salem, 1692


Hanya Yanagihara





For a while, they would mourn him, because they were good people, the best, and he was sorry for that—but eventually they would see that their lives were better without him in it. They would see how much time he had stolen from them; they would understand what a thief he had been, how he had suckled away all their energy and attention, how he had exsanguinated them. He hoped they would forgive him; he hoped they would see that this was his apology to them. He was releasing them—he loved them most of all, and this was what you did for people you loved: you gave them their freedom.

                                        from  A Little Life


Ta-Nehisi Coates

Spiegel & Grau




That was the week you learned that the killers of Michael Brown would go free. The men who had left his body in the street like some awesome declaration of their inviolable power would never be punished. It was not my expectation that anyone would ever be punished. But you were young and still believed. You stayed up until 11 p.m. that night, waiting for the announcement of an indictment, and when instead it was announced that there was none you said, “I’ve got to go,” and you went into your room, and I heard you crying.

                         from  Between the World and Me


Jane Hirschfield
Alfred A Knopf



The desire of monks and mystics is not unlike that of artists: to perceive the extraordinary within the ordinary by changing not the world but the eyes that look. Within a summoned and hybrid awareness, the inner reaches out to transform the outer, and the outer reaches back to transform the one who sees. Catherine of Sienna wrote in the fourteenth century, “All the way to heaven is heaven”…to form the intention of new awareness is already to transform and be transformed.

from  Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World.


Ellen Urbani
Forest Avenue Press



“What were they doing?” asked Gertrude.
“What do you mean? What was
who doing?”
“The marchers. What’d they do that caused the police to get involved?”
“Nothing,” Rose said, drawing out each syllable for emphasis. “That’s the point. They weren’t doing anything ‘cept walking cross a bridge.”
“Go on,” Gertrude prodded. “You know they had to be doing something wrong. Police don’t go interfering with people for no reason.”
Rose sucked in a deep breath, cemented her arms across her chest, and snapped, “Not people who look like you and me.”

                                                   from  Landfall


Erik Larson
Crown Publishers

You can buy Dead Wake on Amazon here.


“I took my position at the periscope again,” Schwieger told his friend Max Valentiner. “The ship was sinking with unbelievable rapidity. There was terrific panic on her deck. Overcrowded lifeboats, fairly torn from their positions, dropped into the water. Desperate people ran helplessly up and down the decks. Men and women jumped into the water and tried to swim to empty, overturned lifeboats. It was the most terrible sight I have ever seen…too horrible to watch, and I gave orders to dive to twenty meters, and away.”

                                                      from  Dead Wake


Graeme Simsion
Simon & Schuster

You can buy The Rosie Project on Amazon here.


Gene and Claudia tried for a while to assist me with the Wife Problem. Unfortunately, their approach was based on the traditional dating paradigm, which I had previously abandoned on the basis that the probability of success did not justify the effort and negative experiences. I am thirty-nine years old, tall, fit, and intelligent, with a relatively high status and above-average income as an associate professor. Logically, I should be attractive to a wide range of women. In the animal kingdom, I would succeed in reproducing.

                                            from  The Rosie Project


Andrew Levy
Simon & Schuster

You can buy Huck Finn's America on Amazon here.


Huck Finn is a mess, a hodgepodge. Parts of the book are ‘fun,’ and parts are traumatic, and parts are ‘real,’ and parts are implausible, and parts are written for children, and parts for adults, and the ghosts of all this playfulness persist: a study at Penn State in 1983 found that, even after ‘weeks of serious study,’ approximately one-third of all students missed the ‘satire’ and still saw Huck Finn as ‘an adventure story.’

                                     from  Huck Finn’s America